Looking for a pair of shearling boots this winter? Before heading to the mall or jumping on the internet, remember that not all shearling boots are created equal. While some are made from the tanned skin of a sheep, others are simply shorn wool that’s later attached to cowhide or pigskin, taking down the cost of a product.
For starters, let’s define shearling. The word is derived from the term shearing, which means clipping or the process of cutting the wool from the sheep. Commonly referred to as sheepskin, it’s the hide of a sheep, typically just two years old, that’s been tanned with the wool left on the skin and referred to as double face or twin face.
There’s a less-expensive version that can still deliver the warmth and coziness of genuine shearling. Here, the wool from a sheep can be used for the interior of boots, but to cut costs, it’s instead glued to a variety of less-pricey leathers that also allow for more customization since these leathers can feature a range of prints, colors and textures.
Where does shearling come from? Sheepskin can be sourced from sheep in a range of countries, then tanned in facilities in other locations. Key material sources include Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Spain, among others. And each has its own type of sheep that delivers distinct types of wool.
Whether boots are made of double-face shearling or wool that’s been adhered to other leathers, the material offers a range of benefits. Wool fibers are a natural, breathable material that can act as a thermostat to regulate body temperature. It also offers a soft cushioning layer against sensitive skin. And it’s a natural source of lanolin, a pure emollient used in skin care products.
Since there are many brands in the shearling footwear market offering a range of products at different price points, it’s up to consumers to do their homework before buying. If a product seems too inexpensive, it may not be the real deal, but a faux shearling version made out of a synthetic material. These materials are a great option for the vegan community. However, be certain the outer shell of the boot is also made of faux leather.
There is plenty of branded product in the shearling market to choose from these days that includes popular names such as Ugg, Emu, Bear Paw, Lamo and Koolaburra. However, be sure to check out the lesser-known labels that also offer the real deal.